As the holidays draw to a close and the prospect of a new school year is imminent, how was the summer break for you?
These summer holidays have been the longest that I can remember, a whole seven weeks to entertain, organise and manage the children or patch together childcare – not to mention paying for it. Is it just me, or, is the prospect of the kids going back to school about to make life a whole lot easier.
The summer holiday might seem like an idyllic distant memory for some, but for others the enforced closeness of a partner or spouse may have deepened cracks already present in the relationship. The pressure of trying to ‘achieve’ the Walton-esque family holiday and being surrounded by what might seem to the perfect, happy family can in fact be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. It can be during a holiday when one spouse decides, or indeed both agree, that it’s time to make the break.
Often it’s only when the children return to school that the opportunity arises, without little ears around, to take legal advice on your options. The choices you have will depend heavily on you and what you want to achieve and, most importantly, how you want to achieve it. You may have heard stories from friends or in the media of highly aggressive and contested separation but, it doesn’t have to be that way. Dependent on your circumstances, a solicitor will talk to you about non-court alternatives such as mediation or collaborative law as well as court based remedies.
So what is collaborative law?
This is a non-court based solution where you and your partner will meet with your solicitors face to face rather than exchange correspondence by letter or email, in a series of meetings to identify the issues and resolve them quickly and co-operatively. Your solicitors will be by your side throughout the process so you will have the help and support on hand as you go.
One of the benefits of collaborative law is that it is not driven by a timetable imposed by the Court. This means that it can work at a pace built around your schedules and needs. The agendas are set in advance of the meetings and will therefore deal with the issues that are important to you.
Before the meeting commences both you and your solicitor will sign up to an agreement confirming that you will try to resolve the issues without going to Court. This means that if you cannot reach an agreement and Court proceedings become in evitable then your solicitor must stand back and you will need to instruct another solicitor take the case further.
Collaborative lawyers receive additional comprehensive training to carry out this kind of work. Make sure that the solicitors you instruct can at least offer collaborative law as an option.
What is mediation?
To be clear, mediation is not about reconciliation. It is a voluntary arrangement where a specially trained, independent and impartial third party will help separating couples resolve disputes including the arrangements for your children and the financial matters attached to the breakdown of the relationship. A mediator would meet with you both, identify the areas you can’t agree on and help you to find solutions to those issues. Mediators are neutral and will not take any sides. They cannot provide legal advice and would recommend that you obtain legal advice to run alongside the mediation process so that you are informed as to which option might be right for you. Mediation works at your pace and is the most cost effective method of resolving disputes. At the end of a successful mediation you will be given a record of the agreement reached which our solicitor will need to convert into a formal order.
Just because mediation and collaborative law might not be right for you, it does not mean that you will inevitably end up at the door of the Court. Make sure that if you need family law advice you approach a solicitor who is a member of the organisation ‘Resolution’. Solicitors that are members of Resolution sign up to a Code of Practice which requires them to deal with each other in a civilised way and to encourage you to put your differences aside and reach a fair agreement in a constructive, non-confrontational approach.
If you would like to discuss any family law issues that might be affecting you please contact me, Carmelita, on 01423 566666 or firstname.lastname@example.org